Welcome to The Living Word Bible study for Sunday, June 20 (TLW24B). This is a non-denominational study which lets the Bible explain the Bible, without leaning to any church’s practice or preferences. We recommend that you read the whole passage first and let the Holy Spirit begin speaking to you through it, then go deeper with the verse by verse commentary and reflections. Bible readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary as shared by many different churches and chapels.
Theme: Learning to rely on God’s providence in life
OT: 1 Samuel 17: 32-49 — Teenager David trusts in God being with him, and goes out to slay a giant armoured warrior
NT gospel: Mark 4:35-41 — With a sudden storm swamping the boat, Jesus commands wind and waves to be still, and teaches about trusting God’s providence
NT letter: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 — For Paul and his companions, coming through severe difficulties proves God’s providence and call
Also read: Psalm 9:9-20
• See also this week’s linked article Help! Learning to trust God in sticky situations
• And this week’s video How to Trust God in Sticky Situations
1 Samuel 17:32-49 — God’s providence for when you’re vulnerable
Teenager David trusts God and goes out to slay a giant armoured warrior
Background — The Philistine giant Goliath, more than nine feet tall and massively armoured, presented a terrifying spectacle as he taunted the Israelite army to put up their best warrior to take him on in single combat. Young David, not part of the army but on an errand to deliver supplies, hears Goliath repeat his daily challenge.
32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”
“Let no one lose heart” — Saul was fearful, 1 Sam. 17:11 but David has the courage of faith, v.37 below.
33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”
34-35 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.
“When a lion or a bear came” — lions and bears were common in Palestine in this period.
36-37 “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
“The Lord who rescued me” — David had practised with the sling, and knew it was the Lord who gave him the ability to take on such dangerous predators.
Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
38-39 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armour on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.
40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
“From the stream” — the opposing armies were separated by a valley and a stream.
41-42 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield-bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him.
“Glowing with health” – ruddy-faced, the word emphasising David’s youth and inexperience.
43-44 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”
“Come at me with sticks” – David appeared weaponless, apart from his staff.
“The Philistine cursed…” – By contrast, David praised. Victory of Goliath would demonstrate God’s victory over Dagon, chief god of the Philistines.
45-46 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.
47 “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.”
48-49 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly towards the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.
“He slung it” — David’s sling would have been a leather cup with two thongs to whirl it. Loosing one thong at the right time released the projectile which stunned Goliath so that David could decapitate him. With practice, this could be a highly accurate weapon.
SUMMARY The contest between the young David, unarmed apart from his faith in God’s covenant and his trusty sling, and the heavily-armoured and huge Goliath, is one of the best-known stories in the Bible. It is also one of the most graphic pictures ‚ because it is about inequality, opposites — and resolute faith as David speaks out his faith in God securing the victory.
APPLICATION The ‘Goliaths’ we meet are not these days in single combat, but usually in the mind — situations where we feel overwhelmed and helpless. However, this is our spiritual enemy’s work and it is characterised by fear and intimidation. It also shows the way to disarm that fear by declaring our trust in God’s love.
QUESTION Someone in your friendship circle or home group is facing a frightening difficulty. How do you help them to speak to God about it?
Mark 4:35-41 — Jesus commands wind and waves and calms the storm
With water swamping the boat, Jesus teaches about faith in God’s providence
35-36 That day, when evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with Him.
“In the boat” — a 26ft boat big enough to hold 15, dating from this first century period, was recovered in 1986 from mud that had preserved it.
37-38 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
“A furious squall” – the Sea of Galilee is 200m below sea level and surrounded on three sides by mountains, giving rise to strong downdraughts. It is known for sudden windstorms in the evenings.
“Sleeping on a cushion” – probably one of the bags of ballast sand used to stabilise the boat. The Son of God was fully human and needed rest.
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
“He… rebuked the wind and… waves” — Jesus’ exercise of authority over the natural power of wind and waves demonstrated who He was, the Messiah. See v.41 note.
40 He said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
“Do you still have no faith?” – the disciples had seen Jesus’ authority in action many times but still lacked faith. The Holy Spirit was to transform their faith and confidence later.
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”
“Wind and waves obey” – in their Scriptures, God commanded wind and waves.
• For further study on the OT emphasis that God alone controls the sea, see Exodus 14-15; Job 12:15, 28:25; Psalms 65:7, 89:8-10, 107:25-30.
• For further study on Jesus’ authority witnessed by the disciples, Mark 1:21-34, 1:40-45, 2:1-12, 3:1-5.
SUMMARY Another well-known story from the Bible concerns Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee in his fisherman friends’ craft, which looks as if it is about to be lost with all hands in a sudden storm. Jesus uses the power of words, speaking in His authority to rebuke the wind and command the waves to be still. He uses this as a lesson in exercising practical faith for the disciples.
APPLICATION God’s providential care of us is linked to our faith or trust in Him — and there are times when He expects us to exercise that. This affects how we pray. We pray in Jesus’ name, meaning we pray the prayer we believe Jesus would pray. The teaching that comes out of this story is that there are times when we should have faith to seek to impose Jesus’ order in His authority — a step beyond asking Him to do it.
QUESTION If we believe in God’s providence over our lives, what are different ways of expressing it? How does praise connect with God’s provision?
2 Corinthians 6:1-13 — Opposition reveals God’s providence
The way God has undertaken for Paul and his companions testifies to their call
1-2 As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For He says, “In the time of My favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
“Not receive God’s grace in vain” – by continuing to live independently from God, not living as having been saved. Paul appeals to the disaffected believers at Corinth to listen to him and Timothy, and as those receiving God’s grace, to be gracious.
“Time of My favour” – Paul, by quoting Isaiah 49:8, is putting it to his accusers that reconciliation with him (Paul) would follow their acceptance of the Good News.
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.
“Now is the time” – God is starting to bestow blessings of the age to come and this is a time of particular favour, between Jesus’ first and second comings, to turn to God by receiving Jesus.
3 We put no stumbling-block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.
“Not… discredited” — Paul and his companions’ character were always being questioned. It seems that various charges had been brought, perhaps out of jealousy of the success of his ministry.
4-7 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left…
8-10 …through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
“Dishonour, bad report…regarded as imposters” — Paul and his companions were of impeccable character but Satan’s attempt to discredit them through people vulnerable to his deceptions, brought slanderous attacks. There was continual opposition from false leaders who were self-serving and self-promoting. By contrast, the suffering Paul and his team endured, and their “yet we live on” determination to follow God’s call, showed them to be genuine.
• For further study, the nine hardships listed (and see 2 Cor. 4:7-18) are detailed in Acts 14:5-6, Acts 14:19-20, Acts 16:19-24, Acts 21:30-36. Imprisonments are mentioned in Acts 16:3, Eph. 3:1, Phil. 1:13-14, Col. 4:18, 2 Tim 1:16, Philemon 1.
11-13 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange — I speak as to my children — open wide your hearts also.
“Opened wide our hearts” — Paul’s enemies had sowed the suggestion that he did not really love them; however, he had always been completely open and sincere with them, 2 Cor. 1:12-14, 4:2.
SUMMARY Paul writes to a city church which he loves, but which has not always loved him, where some have gained influence and used it to ‘brief against’ Paul and the founding apostles. Those opposing him have had their own gain in mind. Paul’s list of hardships show the genuine apostles’ commitment to their call, and God’s commitment to them, despite the gravest difficulties.
APPLICATION There is no easy territory in Christian mission; the enemy does not surrender control without a fight. But it is through danger and difficulty, trusting in God’s provision, that His goodness is experienced most memorably.
QUESTION A common question, a misgiving people have about trusting God through faith in Christ, is why bad things happen to ‘good’ people. How do you think Paul would answer that?
PRAYER Father God, when we take the decision to trust Jesus, we know You and belong to You — and Your providence for us and for the situations we get into, is an important part of that covenant relationship.
May we learn to trust You to see us through grave danger, as David did, and make the response Jesus would have us make when we are tempted to panic, as He demonstrated.
May we find rising in us the rejoicing praise of You, which was Paul’s focus whenever it seemed his world was falling apart.
Fill us with Your Spirit, who grows in us joy in the face of affliction, confident hope to answer the enemy’s threats and thankfulness for our experience of salvation daily as well as eternally.
To the honour and glory of Jesus we pray, Amen.
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